I needed a car quickly, which is probably where it all went wrong. I was thinking about a station wagon with a third row seat to partially replace my Suburban. However, when you decide that you need a car in less than a week, finding the right grocery-getter is not as easy as it might first appear.
I was surprised at the number of local dealers that closed by 8:00 at night. I guess I figured I could see a few cars before making a big decision, but I ended up with one dealership as my best option when it came down to a Friday after school and Saturday morning to close a deal.
I went to Hansen Brothers to look at a Volvo station wagon listed way under Bluebook. When I showed up at the advertised location, there was no station wagon. The salesman told me it was at their other location, a few miles away. However, when we got there, the vehicle was not repaired enough to even look at it. I was told that it might start, but that it was awaiting a new ignition. I crossed it off the list at that point and felt I had wasted my best opportunity to see a few legitimate cars.
I was surprised that the salesman kept hounding me about the Volvo, asking if I'd be willing to buy it when it wasn't even starting. It's pretty bush-league to advertise a car that's not ready to be offered for sale, and then try to sell it when it won't even start. However, I was desperate, since Lisa and I both had to be somewhere the next day. He asked if I needed a station wagon. Well, no, I guess not. That gave me one option on the lot: a 2001 SAAB 9-5. Again, after a test drive, he pressured me to buy it on the spot. I told him I needed to do a little research at home, but Saturday might work.
I found that the price was not terrible, but a bit high, considering the vehicle had a large dent, a non-working radio, and no heated seats. I sent an email saying I had several cars in mind and would buy one, along with an offer that was very fair for the dealership, based on the issues.
I received a call Saturday morning with a counter offer. I agreed and made the purchase. Because of the non-working radio and heated seats, the condition sheet was changed to reflect the two defects. I was satisfied with that, as I was assured the other issues with the heater had been fixed. I was told twice by the salesman that the deal was final and that I could not bring it back with problems. I asked if he was expecting something to go wrong, and I almost cancelled the deal.
However, after driving the vehicle for a day or so, I realized the heater was not working properly. I had been told that it was working, but all of the air came out of the vent, and it only came out at one temperature, so the climate control was shot. I found out online that you can see error codes on the heater, so I tested it out, There it was: two error codes on a newly-fixed heater. A dealership would have wanted over $1000 for the repair.
I have to believe that the dealership either knew about the error codes or the mechanics there were too inept to even check the codes. Either way, they sold me a car with a malfunction not listed, and I figure the radio had also never been checked initially. The tire also went flat on the second day I had the car, but it was just a rusty rim allowing a leak, probably caused by sitting on the lot in one place, so I can only partially blame the dealership for that.
While I would not recommend the dealership, the story does not end so badly. I was able to get a working heated seat switch for $15. The fuse was blown in the radio, so I replaced it. I was also able to find wonderful support on the SAAB forums, and I fixed two little motors in the climate control system for free. Basically, I did what Hansen Brothers should have done when prepping the car for sale. I'm sure I just got lucky, though, and you might not be as lucky
UPDATE: I'm not sure who it was, but someone replaced the aux. brake light, gluing it back up. It came down today. It's a classic PO thing to do, so I'll only partially blame Hansen Brothers for that one. However, I did forget to mention that the one time (the day I bought the car) I tried the hazard lights, the button went right into the dash. That WAS all Hansen Brothers because it's another pre-sale inspection item left unchecked or ignored. Honestly, even if you do buy a car from these guys, I don't think it would be a good idea to let them watch your pets or, heaven forbid, try fixing the car you bought.